News can be entertaining, and entertainment can be newsy, which makes it increasingly difficult for news consumers to tell the difference. Shows like The View often blur the line between journalism and entertainment.
In case you’re not familiar with The View, it’s a daytime talk show hosted by five women (Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Meghan McCain, Sunny Hostin, and Abby Huntsman) that always starts off with “Hot Topics”, a segment that gives the hosts free rein to discuss the day’s news and share their opinions. These exchanges often grow heated given the conflicting politics of the hosts, much to the delight of the audience. The rest of the show includes interviews with celebrities and the occasional cooking segment. And since 2014, it’s been produced by ABC News, adding to the confusion over whether it’s news or entertainment. Or both.
The first question to ask yourself when deciding if a program is news is whether the three defining characteristics of journalism are present: verification (the process that confirms the accuracy of information with evidence), independence (freedom from control or influence of interested parties) and accountability (responsibility to correct errors in your work). As we said in class, news is the only type of information that features all three at the same time.
Another question to ask is what is the purpose of this show? Is it primarily to inform or entertain? And are the hosts journalists bound by journalistic standards and ethics?
When you consider these questions, it is clear that The View is a great stimulus to conversations about the news, but it’s not a news program. The show is designed to fire up the audience and prompt social media reactions. Clips from the live show are quickly made available on The View’s Twitter account, so you don’t even need to watch the show to be in the loop. While the hosts, led by Goldberg, may be independent, they are not journalists and don’t actually do any reporting themselves—they just react to news reports from other sources. Their opinions are delivered live, often on the fly, and by definition, cannot be vetted for accuracy in advance. Nor are they necessarily corrected if factually wrong (although diehard View fans tell me that they sometimes make follow-up mea culpas and are often careful to recite boiler-plate disclaimers in disputed cases, even when it’s clear from their demeanor that they may not personally believe those disclaimers.)
So even though a show sometimes looks likes news, sounds like news and is even produced by a news outlet, it is not news unless all three of journalism’s distinguishing characteristics (verification, independence, and accountability) are present. The View features only one of those.